Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Hillsborough should end charter school conflict

The Hillsborough County School District and the boards overseeing three local charter schools should stop the political posturing and resolve a dispute that could affect the future of thousands of students. The county has legitimate concerns about how the charter schools are governed — and it's the charters' obligation to answer to the school district, not the other way around. The issues are serious, and both sides have an interest in resolving them as quickly and professionally as possible.

For months, the district has sought to clarify what roles the boards of the Florida Charter Educational Foundation and the Bay Area Charter Foundation play at Woodmont, Winthrop and Henderson Hammock. At issue is whether the schools are governed by local boards or an out-of-town parent. The FCEF is based in Fort Lauderdale and works closely with the for-profit Charter Schools USA, another Fort Lauderdale-based entity that manages the three Hillsborough charters. The Bay Area Charter Foundation has local members.

The district and the charters have played the blame-game about who has not acted in good faith to resolve the dispute. But it's the charters' responsibility to address the district's concerns, and it shouldn't have taken them months to arrange a meeting to resolve such serious issues. Local control is not some side matter; it is essential for these charters in meeting their commitment to serve a community need. It's also essential if the school district is to have the necessary leverage to keep wayward charters in line.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia got the charters' attention last month by threatening to revoke their operating authority, a move she could have finessed without alarming the families of more than 2,000 students that their schools might close. Elia has since said she intends for the schools to remain open; the issue is who will run them. The head of the Bay Area Charter, Ron Jurado, inflamed the situation by calling Elia's actions "pathetic," "hostile" and politically motivated at the expense of children.

Jurado has since softened his words, but the rhetoric was over the top. It showed contempt for the accountability that should be expected of charters and for the relationship the school district should expect of any business partner. The chairman of the FCEF launched a similar salvo last year after the district cited similar governance questions and blocked the group's proposal for a charter at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base. Ken Haiko said the district was "not interested in helping military families," and he blasted the move as "nonsensical political grandstanding." It was a reckless statement that served only to sour the current climate.

The FCEF is renewing its push for a MacDill charter this year. The district should not consider that application until it resolves the outstanding governance issues at Woodmont, Winthrop and Henderson Hammock. The district needs to know who is in charge just as students and their families need a stable learning environment. The two go hand in hand.

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Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

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The annual Editorial Cartoon Round-Up is a thought-provoking recap of a momentous 2017. The gallery containing 32 cartoons from some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country is made available by the Washington Post News Service & Syndicat...
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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17